|And so I put metaphorical
pen to paper after the Christmas pause of 2001
having made many modifications to my website but
left off the story of my life at the point where
I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.
life was about to take a new turning, as I was in
spite of everything determined to help myself get
some advantage in the world of work by gaining
some practical qualifications for the things I
already knew I could do.
was not thanks to the Disability Employment
services that I found a couple of suitable
courses at Hereward College, a far cry from the
mythical residential courses that were promised
me. In fact I had not been formally diagnosed at
the time I applied and I had not thought that AS
would be any problem were I to declare it but I
had been honest with the college and on enrolling
had discussed my situation with the colleges
a result of that my admission to the college was
delayed while they sought further reports,
apparantly they were concerned at the impact
I might have on other students.
was not what I expected from a college which has
a large number of disabled students and I argued
my case to no avail. It would seem that something
which my Doctor had written to the college had
been uncomplementary and given them cause for
half way into the term I was admitted and
somewhat disgruntled to start late on the course.
It was only one and a half days a week but it
started to give my life the structure it had been
lacking and brought me into everyday contact with
people and routine again.
To begin with I did feel
rather lost and did not make any attempts to
socialise with the other students who were much
younger than I however I did for the first time
meet other people with Asperger's.
student on my course came up to me over break and
announced that he had Asperger's to which I
replied that so had I and through him I met some
of the other students with Asperger's. It was
good to be able to relate to them and to
recognisemsome of myself in them too.
this year I also made many contacts through the
internet and joined various mailing lists and
newsgroups. I was through one of the lists that I
found someone who was willing to help me gain
disability benefits. I duly applied just after
Christmas but did not remotely think I would
qualify and so there followed a long period of
anxious waiting until June when they were
approved to my amazement. It should not really
have been to my amazement as Dave, one of the
other student I met with AS had been recieving
them for a long time.
long depression I had been suffering began to
lift with the knowledge that I was coping with my
course and I regained the confidence that I was
good at photography which I had begun to doubt
upon the failure of my business.
my disability benefits came through my worries
about finances disappeared almost overnight, I
had a substantial back payment and enough money
to provide for me. I had up till now been living
in a situation of debt and limited income which
was leading me into cycles of desperation and
the term neared its end I began to become worried
again about what should follow and decided to
ignore the disability employment service and
arrange an employment related course for myself.
The aim of this was to give
me continued structure throughout the summer and
to validate my computer skills further by getting
a basic certificate in information technology.
This first was easily accomplished in a couple of
afternoons, however there were many other aspects
of the course which were less suitable. For
instance a lot of the time was wasted in
something called job search. We were essentially
left with a pile of newspapers to sort through
and expected to apply for jobs however unsuitable
or unlikely we were to get them, in order to
justify our continuing to receive benefits. In
fact I was under more pressure to apply for work
than when I was signing on in that at least I was
exempt from applying for unuitable work which I
could not do.
found it frustrating because I wanted to be able
to go on and get more computer certificates but
it appeared that nothing was at all reliable in
this course. Rooms were swapped and there was
really no help beyond the basics for anybody.
People with some existing computer skills usually
ended up helping out those who had none.
was also the requirement to attend a job club
which was again a bit of a joke, none of the
support in form filling etc which I would have
needed was there in reality and I did no more
than was necessary in registering with it but
though I got what I desired, a work placement
negotiated for me with a charity called Baby
Lifeline which was situated much to my
satisfaction on the campus at Hereward College.
Here after a little discussion I found myself
with a real task to sort out, that of restoring a
somewhat corrupted and underused donors database
to functioning order.
truly believe I was the only person that the
training centre could have sent who was really in
any sense qualified for the job. Not because of
what they taught but because of what I already
knew and because of my intuitive facility with
databases. I could almost describe it as a savant
ability because I was able to transform thousands
of entries using various tricks I evolved to make
the task easier and was able to keep up at
repetitive tasks on my own with minimum
enjoyed this as it gave me a real sense of doing
something useful and this I believe to have
been the turning point in the lifting of my
depression. I suddenly began to realise I was not
depressed and was content with my day. I looked
forward to the work and felt satisfied when I had
there was an unseen irony to all this because I
had enrolled already to do a full time course as
soon as the academic term started up at Hereward.
An access course in TV and Video, which is
essentially a course to take one up to university
entrance level. I had never used video and this
seemed like a logical extension of photography.
was one snag. The benefits system would not allow
me to do it while I was still signing for work .
A real anomaly as this was a properly structured
further education course in real practical skills
taught by qualified people, not the ridiculous
put together courses run by various training
companies tendering to the employment department
which were just time fillers as far as I was
had got advice that I would have to claim an
incapacity benefit in order to continue and that
I would need my doctors support for this.
Something I despaired at because I did not know
how to approach my doctor about this.
the end I booked an appointment with him, wrote
it all out first and confronted him with it. To
my surprise he was sympathetic and signed me off
without any trouble. I guess after his previous
letter to the college that made it difficult for
me he had come to realise just how important it
was to me. I was not defrauding anyone either
because had I not been able to go back to college
full time, with the structure and support that
gave me, I would have gone rapidly back into my
depression with serious consequences, which I
guess my doctor understood.